catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 4 :: 2006.02.24 — 2006.03.10


Motherhood and?

?What do you do?? is often the second question we ask somebody as we?re meeting them (right after ?What is your name??) For many people, this question is key to their identity. We live in a culture in which people are often defined by what they do.

Well, I am a stay-at-home mom of two little boys, ages four-and-a-half and one-and-a-half. I find it interesting to hear people?s reactions when I tell them that I stay home with my children. Sometimes I sense a bit of pity in their responses?like, ?Oh that?s so admirable that you do that, but you poor thing; I?m glad that?s not me.? Let me share a secret with you?it?s not a pity, but a privilege to be able to raise and care for my children on a daily basis!

Many of my friends are also stay-at-home moms of young children. All of us believe that what we?re doing is best for our families, despite the challenges we face. We can?t imagine trying to work full-time in addition to motherhood. But I think all moms in our situation?some more than others?struggle at times with the issue of identity. I would like to address several aspects of identity as they relate to being a stay-at-home mom, including activities (?what I do?) and relationships (?who I am?).

On the whole, North American culture doesn?t value what stay-at-home moms are doing. The most telling phrase is to hear someone say, ?Oh, you?re at home? You don?t work?? Well, the answer to that question depends on how you define work. My daily activities while caring for my children often tax me to the limit, are time-consuming, and are extremely rewarding. So, yes?I do work! But somehow work that does not have a paycheck associated with it seems to be viewed as less.

Thankfully, I don?t feel like I struggle very much with the ?what I do? aspect of my identity in this role of mothering. There are several reasons for that. One reason is the wonderful example that my mom has been. She raised nine children and quite literally ?counted it all joy.? She loved being home with us, and made home a warm, welcoming place. As I reflect on that gift, the value of it is priceless. I would like to give my children the same kind of secure, confident environment by being joyfully present for them. As a mom, I wear many different hats in the course of just one day: I am a nurse; teacher; policewoman; chef; and administrator. No one else can fill this role quite the same way as I can.

I have a second reason for contentment with ?what I do? as a mom. I am married to a man who appreciates and respects my other abilities. He works hard to make sure I have time to exercise some of them. I work part-time from home, co-editing a quarterly publication; teach chemistry to several home educated high school students; am a hobby beekeeper; edit our church?s newsletter; lead a group for Coffee Break (a women?s ministry) and am able to run a few times a week. Life is certainly not one-dimensional! I recognize that the everyday tasks of motherhood are not permanent; motherhood is the kind of job that you eventually work your way out of. So involvement in other activities, though small, reminds me that down the road, the way I prioritize my time is going to shift.

When it comes to identity, a question that is harder to address (and one that is less often asked) is ?Who are you?? As I said earlier, for many people, their activities give them their sense of identity. But relationships are also a key part of identity.

My relationship with my husband and with my kids helps to ground me. I love to know that I am loved and needed. My oldest son, Sawyer, tells me repeatedly, ?I love you, Mom!??words to melt a mother?s heart. My youngest son lights up whenever he sees me enter a room, and comes running for a hug. I?ve been blessed with cheerful, appreciative kids, and their attitudes often make my day.

Still, those relationships are not enough on their own. A friend who moved to our city fairly recently has shared how void her sense of identity seems here, compared to what it was where she used to live. There, she was a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a granddaughter, a friend. Here, most people know her only as a wife and as a mom who home schools her kids. It has helped both of us to be part of an accountability group, meeting regularly to share joys and struggles, to invest in our friendship, and sometimes to pray together.

But identity should go deeper than what we do, and deeper than relationships. Identity gets at the core of who we are. I?ve already mentioned my husband and children, who share my richest relationships. But even deeper than what I do and deeper than who I am in relation to others, I am coming to realize my identity in Christ, as a result of being a mom with young children. Everyone knows that sometimes it is very difficult to be a mom. The hardest thing for me is when I come face-to-face with my own lack of Christ-likeness as I am interacting with my children. Again and again I am forced to acknowledge my impatience, selfishness and anger.

It?s not necessarily a bad thing. As I face my lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control, and as I rely on the Spirit to produce these in me, I am becoming more of the person that God created me to be. In this connection I think of Jesus? words: ?Whoever loses [her] life will find it.? Through this adventure of motherhood (which definitely involves sacrifices), I am finding out who I am in Christ. The focus of my identity is shifting so that it does not rest so much on what I do, as on who I am (and especially who I am becoming). I am thankful for the way that God uses mundane, everyday activities, shared daily with two little people that I love dearly, to mold me into His image.

Certainly I enjoy the many different activities that I am able to participate in, and I want to do a good job at them. I delight in being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend, and I want to succeed in those relationships, too. But in the end, my identity does not come from those.

If the activities that currently answer, ?What do you do?? and the relationships that answer, ?Who are you?? were stripped away from me, what identity would I have left? I would still be a child of the King. I want that identity to be the one that gives me my sense of worth. I can?t do anything to make myself more worthy or more precious in God’s sight. What a privilege and responsibility I have, to share that same understanding with my children.

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